rganizational values. You’ve probably heard the term bandied about, maybe from HR, maybe from company leaders. But what are company values? And should you care about having them?
Your company values are the foundation of the organization’s identity. They’re the concepts and qualities that your company considers most important. Strong organizational values shape the perspective, behaviors, and priorities of everyone who works there, from top leaders on down.
As for the second question — should you care about having them for your company — this guide will tell you why the answer to the second question is a resounding yes. You’ll learn how values can improve your company, how to create a useful and memorable values statement, and how you and your employees can bring those values to life.
WHY ORG VALUES
o why does something like having organizational values matter for your company? Well, you wouldn’t start on a road trip without a map, right? The clearer a goal is, the better the chance that it will be achieved.
Your Company’s north star
Organizational values help you define who you are — to your staff, to the people investing in your business, and even to yourself. They shape your culture and create a self-defined standard for you to hold yourself accountable to. Like your own navigational fixed point, they help you make decisions:
- Hiring and firing decisions
- Business expansion decisions
- Day-to-day decisions
When something has you stuck, you can refer back to your own values and mission to see which of your options holds true to your beliefs.
Sadly, not everyone in the workplace has this guide. Our 2013 Engagement Survey found that only 42% of employees can say that they know their organization’s vision, mission, and values. Less than half the workforce knows what they should be working toward at their company every day.
And it’s not just employees’ fault for not knowing. 39% of employees polled by BlessingWhite say their senior leaders don’t act in accordance with a company’s guiding principles. So workers aren’t getting a strong message about what their organization’s values are. In the meantime, they’re still doing essential work for the company ... but it might not be done in the way that would best serve the company’s vision.
Wouldn’t you want your employees’ decisions to be directed by your most important principles and ideas?
Boosting employee happiness
In our 2015 Industry Ranking Report, we found that workers in Construction & Facilities Services industry ranked #1 out of all industries for employee happiness. We took a look at how employees in this sector responded to one of the TINYpulse questions: “Do you feel our company values are aligned with your values?” Their answers make it clear that sharing values with your company and your coworkers makes you happier on the job:
"The company values have a customer-centric mindset as do I. Our challenge is how to effectively provide superior customer service and communication from a process-driven place."
"I share the values of the company in my personal life. That is one of the things that make it very easy to love working here."
"One of the most satisfying thing about working here is the close alignment of the company values to my own. That my peers overwhelmingly share the same values is icing on the cake."
What’s more, neuroscience supports the connection between organizational values and happiness. Stanford University’s Jamil Zaki conducted research on how people’s values relate to being part of a group, and here are some of the most interesting ideas for company leaders.
- Social connection: It’s important to us that our values are shared by the rest of our social group. In Zaki’s research, people who were told that their opinions were the same as the rest of the group experienced a reward response in their brains.
- Shifting values: Zaki also found that if a person learned that their value judgments were different from their peers, they shifted their opinions closer to the group’s. In other words, social connections can actually change a person’s values. So company values help by giving them a shared set of values to agree upon.
Boosting EmploYEE rEtEntion
Once you’ve brought in the right talent with your company values, they’ll want to stick around, too. A study by Right Management found that employees’ commitment to their company’s values is a key driver of their engagement. It’s no surprise, since people need meaningful work in order to feel engaged. A series of tasks with no connection to a wider company identity is not going to inspire an employee’s commitment. But feeling like you’re together on the same mission can be deeply fulfilling.
So organizational values can help you recruit and retain happy, engaged employees who know how to play their part in achieving your company mission. Why wouldn’tyou want to use them?
HOW TO CHOOSE
on’t delay on choosing the company values you want for your business. They’ll shape how your employees build your products, work with customers, and take the everyday actions that create your organizational culture.
The importance of company values means that you should be thoughtful when you choose them, but it doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Here are five easy steps to guide you.
1 list who You likE anD whY: As a manager, you’ve had plenty of time to work with bosses and colleagues, and by now, there are several you admire and enjoy working with. Jot down the names of four or five of them. Then list out what you liked about them.
2 list who You Don’t likE anD whY: We’ve also all worked with people we find less than stellar — the kind that drain your energy and make you want to pull your hair out. So flip the preceding point on its head and list the names of four or five people you’ve disliked working with. Then describe the characteristics that made them unappealing colleagues.
Brainstorm valuEs anD ComparE:
Pick a few values you think
might make sense for your organization. Then compare them to the
lists you wrote up for #1 and #2 above. Imagine your list of values
applied to the people you liked working with. Would your values make
those people thrive? Next, imagine your values applied to the duds. Do
they help weed folks out?
To have a solid list of values, your answer needs to be “yes” to both of these.
4 rEpEat: Your first crack at a values list won’t be dead-on. That’s okay. Just keep repeating the exercise until it comes together. Draft a new set of values until the answer is yes on both fronts.
5 makE thEm EasY to rEmEmBEr: Your employees can only follow the values if they know what they are. Make them unique and memorable. Don’t worry, we’ll give you some tips on this in Chapter 4.
By working backwards, you’ll find the right values to create the identity and culture you want for your company.
ere’s a blank template so you can create your own list of company values using Chapter 2’s five steps.
ContinuE rEvising Your valuEs until You havE all “YEs” in Column a anD Column B
o doubt, the most important thing about organizational values is their content — it has to be right for your company and guide you to success. But giving them a little oomph makes them easier for everyone to keep top of mind.
Take a look at these examples from TINYpulse clients to see how you can make your values something to remember.
An acronym works as a mnemonic device to make your values easier to internalize. Here’s how TINYpulse lists our values to make them stick in our employees’ minds:
- Delight customers
- Elect to spread positivity
- Lead with solutions and embrace change
- Increase communication with open engagement
- Go the extra mile with passion
- Hold oneself accountable
- Treasure culture and freedom
punCtuation anD shorthanD
Play with punctuation and shorthand, like Sylvin Technologies does, to add personality and flair:
- Be the Best U Can Be
- Always Show Caring, Fairness & R-E-S-P-E-C-T
- Be Positively Engaged @ Work & Life
- Quality = Doing it Right Every Time!
Use clever wordplay that fits with your company’s product. For example, The Pita Pit takes some tasty puns:
- Be as fresh as our food
- Stay hungry
Your values encompass the entire organization, so take a cue from Social Tables and highlight the team by making liberal use of words like “we” and “our”:
- We care for one another, trust each other, and empower each other
- We pursue our goals with passion and purpose
up ClosEanD pErsonal
Relatedly, try terms like “me” to really drive home to each employee that the values apply to them, like ICON Staffing Network does:
- It’s on me to make excellence happen
kEY thEmEs anD iDEas
Short phrases, like the ones BizX uses, capture specific concepts to really drive the point home in a memorable way:
- Think Big
- Community Matters
- Be Awesome
Write your values the way you would say them out loud to someone else, like Captricity does. Values that sound natural are that much easier to recall:
- Meet our customers where they are
- In it together
- Remember why we’re here
One-word values don’t take special effort to remember. Follow the example of Gougeon Insurance Brokers, and go for short and sweet:
room for intErprEtation
If you leave the language a little open-ended, your employees can mull over each value and figure out what it means to them. Look at how Red Thinking does it:
- Work to live (not live to work)
- Do what you live
- Give back
an opEning statEmEnt
Start out with a key phrase that drives the rest of the values, like the International Community School of Addis Ababa:
- Embracing diversity strengthens our community
- All individuals have inherent worth and dignity
- Curiosity and inquiry inspire learning
- Collaboration creates opportunities to achieve our goals
ExaCtlY what You mEan
You can also be thorough and specific when you write your values, which is how Inspire Group does it. Try out a full paragraph that describes and expands upon each value. No, employees aren’t going to remember the exact wording, but they will be able to get a full picture of each value so it will be fleshed out and real in their heads.
Try out a few of these tips and see just how unforgettable your values can be.
SPREAD THE WORD
o now you have a fabulous set of organizational values that represent your company and will stick in the minds of everyone in your organization. What’s next?
Take the time to introduce the values to your employees. After all, you don’t want your people to be part of the 42% of employees who don’t know their company’s values. It’s not an overnight process — they’ll need time to become familiar with the values and incorporate them into their daily work — but here are a few steps that will get you started in the right direction.
1 put ‘Em up: The first step is to make sure everyone can find your values. Make them prominent on your website. Post them in your building, especially in places employees will gather together, like conference rooms. Of course, you don’t want to stop here — people will get used to the posters and stop noticing them — but it’s a start that will support all the next steps.
2 share them from the very beginning: Don’t wait until firstday orientation to tell an employee your values. Discuss them in the interview. Even include them in your job listing. You want every person who comes aboard to know what they’re getting into. If they won’t fit in with your values, it’s better for everyone involved to find that out early, not after you’ve made a job offer.
3 put Your monEY whErE Your mouth is: Set a good example with the company’s behavior. Use your values to guide important business decisions — even if it’s hard. We’ll go into detail about how to do this in Chapter 6.
4 spotlight successes: Highlight great examples among your staff. If someone’s actions or daily behavior really represents one of your values, find a way to acknowledge them. One option is to create company awards to highlight their great deeds. Or you can try implementing peer-to-peer recognition tools to let colleagues recognize each other.
5 find out what Your people think: For your employees to feel really engaged with your values, they need to know that they have a say. Get them feedback on how your company is fulfilling (or not fulfilling) the values by leveraging employee surveys. Listen to their suggestions on what you could do better.
Over time, your employees will come to see these values as akin to the organization’s identity. They’ll take them on as their own and make their own decisions based on them.
ow is the time to bring your values to life. To be effective, they need to inform every part of your organization — from top-level executives to new hires, in daily production and annual goals.
guiDE thE BusinEss
As a leader, it’s up to you to ensure that the company’s business decisions are guided by your stated values. This can mean making some tough choices and being unable to take the easy way out.
Say a customer wants a new invoicing option. It’s not a bad idea, but your current system works fine. What do you do? If one of your values is “Embrace change,” like TINYpulse, then your choice is clear: you try something new and see what you can get out of it.
Whenever you’re making a decision that affects the company’s operation, make your values part of the discussion and check to see that everything the company does supports them. Only when you demonstrate commitment on the company level will individual employees join the effort.
hirE anD firE
Bring values into your hiring process. List your values in your job postings and ask about them in interviews. If one of your core values is “embrace change,” consider asking, “What do you do when your priorities change quickly?” If a candidate can show you that they live your company values, then you’ll know they can do the same as part of your team.
Once employees are hired, bring them on board with the values. When applicable, give them the same training experience. For example, Zappos makes sure all new hires get the same understanding about the importance of customer service by training them all to take customer calls. It reinforces the idea that values are not just used some of the time by some parts of the organization — everyone is expected to work for them.
And if an employee’s behaviors or actions aren’t aligned with the organization’s values, then talk to them about it. Make sure they understand what the company’s expectations are for them. Ultimately, if they cannot get behind the values, then it’s time to let them go. An employee who is always at crosspurposes with the rest of the organization will neither help the company nor be engaged in their job.
takE it outsiDE
Living your values doesn’t just involve what goes on inside your company’s walls. If your list of values includes ideas like giving back, being socially responsible, or connecting with the community, then your work extends to the world around you.
Company-sponsored volunteerism is a perfect way to enact these values. Set aside a work day each quarter to have your employees work on a group volunteering project. It ensures that the work becomes embedded in your culture and identity.
What’s more, UnitedHealth Group found that 65% of employees have strengthened their relationship with coworkers through volunteering. So while you’re helping the community, you’re also doing good for your organizational culture.
Actions speak louder than words. Take actions that make your organizational values a reality. Words posted on the wall or listed on your website aren’t where your values come from — it’s in the everyday actions and choices of each member of your company. It takes effort to make your organizational values a foundation of your company, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with everything they have to offer.
Companies make an effort to consistently track revenue, financial returns, and productivity. But they’re forgetting one of the most important aspects of their organization: their people. And that’s where TINYpulse comes in.
Founded in 2012, TINYpulse works hard to make employees happier around the world. Our goal is to give leaders a pulse on how happy, frustrated, or burnt out their employees are, helping managers build bridges by sparking dialogue that results in organizational change.
what we do
We believe that information empowers leaders to create an engaging work environment and culture where people can thrive. Here is how we do that:
- Pulsing survey: Our weekly pulse survey measures employee engagement using just one question. TINYpulse is a lightweight solution that captures anonymous feedback from your team to reveal insights, trends, and opportunities so you can improve retention, culture, and results.
- Peer-to-peer recognition: TINYpulse’s Cheers for Peers™ peer-to-peer recognition tool captures the appreciation, extra effort, and little things that are often overlooked by leaders. Peers can easily send a quick shout-out to their colleagues to brighten up their day—because a little recognition goes a long way.
- Virtual suggestions: Our virtual suggestion box lets employees have direct input on how to improve the workplace. The anonymous format makes employees feel comfortable being honest and offering actionable ideas to improve their workplace.
who uses us?
Every organization wants happy employees. Our customers range across all industries and all parts of the world, from start-ups to enterprises. Organizations such as GSK, Living Social, Airbnb, HubSpot, Brooks Shoes & Apparel, and many more are using TINYpulse to delight their employees and increase engagement.
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